Beauty Series Part 1: Hair Extensions

By Nancy Noreman

Things that make you go hmmm…and question your sanity just a little. We have all witnessed it and then rubbed our eyes, questioning if we were correct. Wasn’t her hair short yesterday? I would swear that it was. In this case, it’s likely your memory is just fine, and the new ’do you are looking at is probably a luxurious set of hair extensions. This particular lady is walking around with an extra bounce in her step, a bit more swag in her stride, and a definite readiness to try the old “Legally Blonde” bend ’n’ snap move! Oh, yes, this girl is on—and ready to go with the new hair that she got in less than two hours.

Nancy Noreman

Say, what??? You heard me right. In less than two hours, you can go from short hair to long—and I am here to let you know how it can be done.

Just as the nail salons in the 1980s made the price of a manicure-pedicure affordable for more people vs. having your nails done in a hair salon*, the availability of better products has made hair extensions attainable for the average person. Hair extensions used to be prohibitively expensive, only affordable for the rich and famous. Due to their popularity—and to more hair manufacturers coming on board—salons and stylists have caught on.

While extensions may not be for everyone, you may be surprised by who is enjoying them. A good stylist applies the right ones, and they are completely unnoticeable. Sometimes they’re used for reasons other than extending length. Hair extensions can also cover hair that is thinning, add volume to hair that is too thin or lacking texture, and add color. They have brought about an entirely new dimension to hair styling that was not on the menu in most salons five years ago.

The challenge is that, while the prices are more affordable, they are still a bit high, and not all salons and stylists are created equal. Therefore, it is important for you, as the client and consumer, to be educated. As with anything, you should do your homework. No worries, though. I am here to help. Just remember that I live in New York, so I’m used to prices that are a bit higher than other areas, which is good. You can probably expect to pay less if you are not in New York—unless you are in Los Angeles or Las Vegas, which in my experience are sometimes more.

The first thing that you should know is your own hair type. Different hair textures and types will do better with different types of extensions. This article is geared more toward European hair. If your hair is very curly and brittle, the application technique may be different, or you may need to take the extensions out more often.

When shopping for a salon to do your extensions, these are the questions you want to ask:

1) How long have you been doing extensions?

2) What type of extensions does your salon use?

3) What is the price range for extensions?

4) What is the maintenance for extensions?

5) How long do the extensions you do typically last?

6) What is the source of the hair you use? Is it real hair?

Keep in mind that no good salon will ever give you a price over the phone. They will want you to come in for a consultation. Extensions require a color match, so you will want to go into the salon and make sure they have the right color and enough in that color to do your hair. They should also be able to give you a price quote at the time of the consult.

Types of Hair Extensions

You have four choices:

1) Clip-ins. These are wefts of hair attached to little clips that can be temporarily attached onto your hair. They have to be carefully matched to your hair color so they are not easily detected, and they are good way to be introduced to the world of extensions. The price range is $100-$300, depending on the quality and amount of hair that you purchase. The problem you will run into is, if you are using clip-ins more than two times per week, they can start to damage your hair. That is when you realize that you should probably graduate to one of the more permanent extension solutions or minimize your use of clip-ins so you don’t damage your hair. I can tell you that they are addictive because you can change your look so fast, and they are so much fun! When I was modeling, I loved using these! A side note: many stylists will put them in for you during a blowout if you bring them with you. Just make sure to tell the receptionist when you book your appointment to allow for enough time.

2) K-tips, or keratin tips. These are little balls of keratin with hair attached. The keratin is melted to a few strands of your hair with a special heat tool. They must be removed with a special tool as well. K-tips are not reusable. It is also very important that you do not play with the keratin bonds or pull them out, or you will damage your own hair. That’s a very common mistake. Another is trying to keep them in too long. Proper maintenance is key to using keratin tips. They typically last about three months, and the cost is usually $10 each. Most people need 40-50 for a full head if they are lengthening their hair. A good, well-known brand is SO CAP USA.

3) Tape-ins. These are small tape strips of glue attached to hair that are sandwiched around a few strands of your hair. They come in different lengths; for example, 18 inch, 20 inch and 24 inch. They also come in many different colors.

Tape-ins have gained popularity because the hair is reusable. You can use it over once it grows out—after anywhere from 8-12 weeks. As for how many times you can use the hair, it depends on the hair you purchase and the way it is maintained. Most people can use the hair 2-3 times after the initial application. As to the cost of the first set of extensions, it will vary. It may well be a couple hundred more than k-tips, but you can then use the hair again and just pay to have them moved up. The cost of moving the hair up varies among salons also. If you get tape-ins, you will want to ask how much the salon charges for that. A good, well-known brand to use is ZALA.

4) Sew-Ins. For sew-in extensions, your own hair must be coarse and strong or it will be severely damaged. The technique to apply a sew-in requires your own hair to be braided underneath and then the hair extension weft is sewn onto the braid.

Thanks to my friends at Salon 3028 in East Northport, New York, for the information and photos (

*Source:, “Nailing the American Dream, With Polish,” June, 14, 2012.